Why is land and soil information important?
Soils are an important, non-renewable natural resource. Healthy soils support a healthy environment: they support plant and animal productivity and biodiversity, promote water and air quality and underpin our food and fibre supplies, so they are vital for our survival.
To productively and sustainably manage our land and soils, we need to know where our best and worst landscapes and soils are, and what we can do with them without causing degradation. For this, we need a comprehensive, high-quality, accessible resource of soil and land information.
What information do we hold?
Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) collects and manages two major types of soil and land information.
A soil profile is a column of soil going vertically downwards from the surface to a certain depth at a particular location. This column of soil is described and tested, including (in some cases) collection of samples for testing at a laboratory.
The soil description and test results, along with features of the site and local area, are recorded in the NSW Soil and Land Information System (SALIS), a database of soil information from across NSW that is managed by DPE. Contextual information may include assessments of:
- native vegetation
- land use
- land and soil degradation.
More than 73,000 profiles are stored in SALIS, of which about two-thirds are publicly available. The information is collected by Department of Planning and Environment field staff and many other contributors, who add thousands of collection points each year.
Landscape and soil mapping
We map soils and landscapes to understand their distribution, the processes by which they develop, their capability and suitability for various uses, what risks may be involved and how they can be safely addressed.
This information is important for both the direct users of land and soils and for more strategic purposes, such as planning and policy-making, environmental protection, and improvement of or adaptation to large-scale environmental problems such as climate change, soil erosion, acidification and dryland salinity. Recently, the department's soil and landscape mapping has provided the foundation for the NSW Government’s identification of the State’s best land and soils through its mapping of Biophysical Strategic Agricultural Land.
DPIE manages mapping from a number of programs, collected in various areas of NSW at different scales for various purposes. An increasing majority of these datasets are stored in SALIS and available on eSPADE. You can find more information about them on the soil maps of NSW page.
How do we manage land and soil information?
We have developed a suite of online systems for collecting, storing and accessing soil and land information.